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Playing Standard American, partner opened 1 club. Right hand opponent overcalled 1 spade. I raised to 2 clubs with:

♠xx ♥Axxx ♦JTxx ♣Qxx

Everyone passed. Partner had 13 points and a "short" three card club suit and we went down one (not doubled, not vulnerable), because of our club shortness. Our system allows us to bid short minors, although most of the time we have have four, or even five of the minor. But switch the club and heart suits, and I would have gladly raised to two hearts with Qxx because we were playing five card majors.

Someone suggested that I use a "negative double" instead of raising one club because of the potential short club problem. What exactly is its meaning and purpose, since partner already bid? It's not exactly a takeout double, but it seems to have the connotations of "I don't like your suit, could you bid another one." Or does it?

And, in fact, is a negative double the best action in this case since I have only seven points? (What little I was taught about this bid was that it showed 8-10 points.) I'm actually quite happy with the result because we shut out a one spade bid that would have made, perhaps with overtricks.

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Have you heard of negative double? If you are playing that, a double by you over 1S would tend to show (depends on your agreements) at least 4 carder heart. Over 1D, you should bid 1H. Finding a major fit is paramount. And 2C is naive, as you might end up in a 3-3 fit (as your did). Also, this is quite a specific question and I am voting to close as such. –  Aryabhata Nov 7 '11 at 16:58
    
@Aryabhata: Maybe the question badly worded but there are actually two non-specific issues here. One is, are there times when it is wrong to raise a "short" club, even though I would raise a five card major. The second issue is, is this a situation when a negative double is better than a "bid." I've heard of it, although frankly, I don't fully understand it. More to the point, this partner doesn't understand it either. Why don't you answer the question to make a case for the negative double? Feel free to re-word it if you need to. –  Tom Au Nov 7 '11 at 17:50
    
If you don't play negative doubles, you could either lie (and bid 1NT) or pass. 2C is not a reasonable option IMO. When partner opens a major, you are guaranteed at least 5. Raising to 2C here is just gambling. If you think there is a non specific question, please edit the question to clarify that. –  Aryabhata Nov 8 '11 at 1:23
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3 Answers

up vote -2 down vote accepted

You have a variety of options here, and a lot of it depends on partner agreement. How competitive are you when bidding? Some prefer solid bids, some prefer to be more aggressive. As long as your partner is not going to get upset at a raise w/ 3, a 2 club bid here is fine. I would likely have made the same bid, since you are not vulnerable. This is going with the odds, as the odds are only like 17% that they only have 3 clubs.

Expected club length for a 1♣ opener (using "Standard American" guidelines)

3-cards : 17%

4-cards : 26%

5-cards : 38%

6-cards : 15%

7 cards : 4%

(Source: http://www.larryco.com/BridgeArticles/ArticleDetails.aspx?articleID=18)

So, 2♣ should be fine. What about a negative double? I think a negative double is also an appropriate bid, and possibly a better one. The main determinant is whether or not you consider this hand to be worthy of a negative double. The thought process should probably go: Am I strong enough for a negative double? That is something for you to determine. If the answer is no, then the next question is: Can I bid 2♣. I'd say yes. If you can't bid 2♣ either, then the 3rd answer of pass is probably fine. Some people will bid 1NT, but you don't have a stop, your hand sucks for notrump, and you are at the bottom of what would normally be acceptable pointwise for a 1NT bid. Also, the lead against NT is going to pass through the hand with the spade stop which is even worse.

To summarize: Negative Double, 2♣, and pass are all viable options. Which is best depends on partnership style and agreements.

Note: This is all assuming that you are defining short clubs as 3♣. If you are opening 1♣ with only 2, then you should have 4 to raise.

Edit given some comments: The asker seems to be asking essentially 2 things. 1) Is it okay to raise a minor suit opening (that could be 3) with only 3 card support? Answer imo is a definite yes. 2nd question: What is the appropriate bid for this hand. Answer for that is probably a negative double, unless you don't feel strong enough for a neg double with that hand in which case 2♣ is fine.

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-1: This post misses the fact that this is a partnership game. If partner has a club suit, he can always rebid it later if given the opportunity. Not making a negative double just buries your heart fit. And so what if you cannot find a 5-3 club fit? Do you really want to play at the 3 level in 5-3 fit? What about the times when partner takes you seriously and competes to a too high level? Bidding 2C is just unilateral. As an aside, using these kind of percentages and trying to justify bids is very dangerous (and misleading), so early in the auction. You cannot cater to what happens next. –  Aryabhata Nov 22 '11 at 3:13
    
For instance, what % of the time do you expect a club rebid from partner? What % of times would the final contract be 2C? If the final contract was going to be 2C, then wouldn't partner have gotten a chance to rebid his clubs if you had made a negative double? How do your figures cater to that? –  Aryabhata Nov 22 '11 at 3:15
    
As mentioned, negative double is a good option as well. Why in the world am I forcing partner to rebid clubs if he only has 4? 4-3 club fit is a great place to play the hand. That way, the 4-3 fit is played with the shortage of spades in the correct hand (the one that is short in spades). If we play a 4/3 heart fit, now the wrong hand is roughing. On defense, I also prefer a club lead over a heart lead. The main thing tho, is that it shouldn't shock partner. I've played with people who would consider 2♣ here to be a no brainer and others who would consider a negative double a no brainer. –  Eric Nov 22 '11 at 17:21
    
Why should partner bid 2H with only 3? Also, do you really expect the bidding to end in 2C? And if it did, wouldn't 1NT probably play better (especially if partner has 4 clubs and 3- hearts and didn't open 1D)? Also, your hand is likely to be on lead (your RHO bid 1S) if defending, so your point about club vs heart lead is irrelevant. The point is, 2C is a big distortion from what is expected and is a ridiculous, unilateral bid given the alternatives available. Your method of justifying the 2C bid by quoting percentages is a common trap many people fall into. The fact that your answer mentions –  Aryabhata Nov 23 '11 at 4:21
    
negative double as a viable option is irrelevant to my -1. The -1 is for trying to justify the horrendous 2C bid by insufficient and misleading analysis. Anyway, I think this discussion would likely end up wasting too much time, so end of discussion for me. –  Aryabhata Nov 23 '11 at 4:21
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Your options are:

Double

Double would suggest that you have at least 6 points and that you have at least 4 of the unbid major suit (hearts). I think this is the best bid as it accurately describes your hand. Now that your partner has this information he can decide how best to proceed. If your partner has hearts he can bid them, if he has a strong club suit he can rebid that.

With 10+ points you could still double, but it's often preferable to bid something that shows the extra strength.

2 Clubs

You would normally need 4 clubs to bid this, so this is not a good bid if you only have 3 of them. It happened to work out OK for you on this occasion, but you could easily have ended up in 3 clubs (possibly doubled). There's obviously less risk with this kind of bid when non-vulnerable, but even then it's very unlikely that this is your best option.

Pass

This isn't a particularly poor bid, but double is better. If you'd passed it's quite likely your opponents would have ended up in 1 spade which presumably they would have made.

If you'd only had 6 points and were vulnerable you might prefer this over doubling.

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The negative double would show 6+ pts. The part about "usually no more than 9, and partner knowing roughly the total number of points" is incorrect. And, 2C is an awful bid. –  Aryabhata Jan 26 '12 at 20:19
    
Edited, hopefully a bit clearer now. –  Tom77 Jan 27 '12 at 11:51
    
You normally don't bid 4 card suits at the 2 level, even if you have 10+ points. Especially not, if you can show your 4 card heart suit with a double. I suggest your remove that last sentence. +1 though. –  Aryabhata Jan 27 '12 at 17:19
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Finding an good 8 card major suit fit should be your first priority. Game contracts in the Major suits require fewer tricks than a minor and offer more possibilities of making tricks than No trump.Therefore, after a minor suit opening bid, most good players explore for an 8 card major fit by bidding four card suits up the line on the one level hoping to find a compliment four card holding in their partners hand. If partner also holds 4 cards in the same major he will raise to the appropriate High card point level for his hand and this will become the trump suit. Therefore on the hand above you should bid 1h promising 4 hearts and 6 or more high card points. Negative doubles are an important tool that help to help find the 8 card major fit when the opponents overcall. Negative doubles allow you to show four card suits when the opponents overcall bypasses a the card suit that you wanted to bid at the low one level. When the opponents overcall a one club bid with a one diamond call a negative double allows responder to show both majors with one call.

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-1 for suggesting a bid that can't be made in this situation: the bid to you is 1S, so 1H is not an option. The problem is what to do when 1-level bids are no longer available. –  Dave DuPlantis Jan 27 '12 at 14:57
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